The circle of life unfolded at our place over the weekend, and it moved us all.
We had one ewe left to lamb. She had prolapsed a few weeks ago. The vet was called and she was sorted out, but we had to watch her carefully for any signs of labour.
I swear, just about every day, someone said, “Oh, she’s going to lamb soon.”
The first ewe lambed on August 12, so we were sure she wouldn’t be far away.
She was the most-watched ewe in the world and she was huge. But she just carried on eating grass, sitting down, eating grass, sleeping, eating grass. Day after day.
When we were at work, another family member went and checked on her every day - actually, they checked on her over the weekends as well. We all did. Multiple times.
We waited. We watched. Day after day.
Google told me the average length of a sheep’s cycle was 17 days. So by my calculations, she should have been ready to lamb by the beginning of September, depending on where she was in her cycle when the ram went in.
All the other ewes lambed within 10 days. This one must have been avoiding Ronald the ram for quite some time.
Finally on Saturday, September 16, more than three weeks after the last lambs were born, Mr Neat was outside just on the cusp of dusk and the horses were standing still looking over at the little hayshed.
He went to have a look and sure enough, there was a tiny lamb. He came and got me, and as we were watching the ewe clean her lamb up and feeling relieved for her, Mr Neat noticed something behind her.
Another lamb still in its sac. He quickly whipped it off, but it was too late. The lamb was dead. He went off to bury it. The ewe wasn’t interested in feeding the tiny lamb, which could barely stand, so we decided to give it some colostrum.
About an hour later, another water bag appeared, and not long after, a much bigger lamb was born. Mum and the babies are doing well.
But that was not the end of the circle of life. We have had a sick chicken for a week or so. She would perk up for a few days and then stand in the corner all fluffed-up. She had been given numerous Epsom salt baths and separated from the flock. But she was old — we tried our best, but on Sunday, she died.
In another hayshed, a clucky chicken had been sitting on eggs. My calculations had them hatching on that very day. And yes, as we said goodbye to Bully the chicken, we could hear little chirps coming out from under the clucky hen.
There was no way we could get close enough to have a look. Her tail was up, she was growling at us and I wasn’t going anywhere near that beak.
As I write this, we have seen two little chicks. The circle of life begins again.
Ingonyama nengw’ enamabala (se-to-kwa!)
Linda Hall is a Hastings-based assistant editor for Hawke’s Bay Today, and has 30 years of experience in newsrooms. She writes regularly on arts and entertainment, lifestyle and hospitality, and pens a column.